The Emerging Dynamics of Certification

Scrum and agile certification is now very much in focus. The ‘certification story’ is unfolding to become a major subject of debate in 2010. The story has several facets, with action from the Scrum Alliance, and the community-at-large, including notable bloggers and the Agile Skills Project.

At issue is the basic value of certification.

Skills Mind Map Fragment. from the AGILE SKILLS PROJECT

The story has several facets. The first facet is the recent blog post from Ron Jeffries asserting that certification divides the agile community. In that post, entitled Scrum Alliance: Drop Certified ??, he asserts:


It’s time for the Scrum Alliance to stop using the C word, “Certified”. It is holding us all back by dividing and diluting our impact on the world of work.


The full detail from InfoQ on the Ron Jeffries blog post can be viewed here.

The second facet of the certification story is the Scrum Alliance. The Scrum Alliance has authorized new certifications. The new Scrum Alliance certifications include Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) and Certified Scrum Coach (CSC). The Scrum Alliance’s relatively new tagline, “Transforming the World or Work” symbolizes the very real changes taking place inside this credentialing organization.

These new credentials at the Scrum Alliance come on the heels of founder Ken Schwaber formally leaving the Scrum Alliance to create an all-new credentialing authority called Ken Schwaber is a signatory of the Agile Manifesto and a noted authority on agile and Scrum.

Thus the third facet of the certification story is the development of The mission of as listed on the Scrum.Org web site is as follows:

<quote>’s purpose is to improve the profession of software development so that we love our work and our customers love working with us and trust our integrity. To do so:

1. We maintain the consistency and integrity of the Scrum process.

2. We work with select partners to develop courseware and knowledge on how to use Scrum in various domains or work, such as risk management.

3. We work with trainers to learn and use the Program Development Partner courseware to help others learn how to build products using Scrum.

4. We work with Scrum users to help them incrementally improve their ability to use Scrum, including the application of self-assessments.


Scrum certification is a hot topic, and getting even hotter with the development of new credentials by both the Scrum Alliance and the all-new Scrum.Org led by Ken Schwaber. Of particular interest is the fact that both organizations offer a Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) credential. The detail on the Scrum Alliance CSD can be found here while the CSD info can be found here.

A fourth facet, and perhaps the most interesting, is the emergence of the AgileSkillsProject at The organization describes itself as follows:


The Agile Skills Project is a non-commercial resource that will establish a common baseline of the skills an Agile developer needs to have, including a shared vocabulary and understanding of fundamental practices. The Project intends to:

* Establish an evolving picture of the skills needed on Agile teams
* Encourage life-long continuous learning
* Establish a network of trust to help members find like-minded folk, and to identify new mentors in the community


The Agile Skills Project (ASP) has direct connections to Ron Jeffries and several others who are notable in the agile community; see the full picture here on Ron Jeffries’ blog. InfoQ is carefully following and reporting on this story; see related InfoQ articles on the Agile Skills Project here and here.

What does the Agile Skills Project think about certification? One person involved in leadership of ASP is D.Andre Dhondt. In a recent email to InfoQ, Andre writes:


“Following the recent flurry of blogs/tweets/etc. onCertifications (Robert Martin, Ron Jeffries, Chet Hendrickson,Tobias Mayer, Cory Foy, George Dinwiddie, Mike Sutton), I think it could be newsworthy to write an article about how certification really is just a red herring, as Sutton
suggests. The Agile Skills Project (ASP) doesn’t have an axe to grind here–it’s got no money, and doesn’t make a profit forrating/ranking/qualifying classes/certs/etc.

“The real, underlying problem is how do we get people hooked on lifetimeskills improvement? I think the answer is apoint-accumulating model in which people can show what they’redoing, be it paid courses or self-trained study. Dan Pink says motivation comes from autonomy-mastery-purpose. We givepeople autonomy in choosing whether they go for certs or not,read books, or go to conferences–but count it all as something that demonstrates progress, their way to mastery.We give purpose to the whole thing by making it community-owned…”


One item of note regarding the Agile Skills Project is the ability of users of the ASP web site to post a personal “skills inventory”. This amounts to a chronological summary of professional development activities over time. See the sample skills inventory of D.Andre Dhondt here.

The ASP project is seeking community feedback on everything they are doing. The project is now an element of an new and emerging certification landscape for agile practitioners.

Related InfoQ articles:

Is Scrum Certification Having Another Makeover?

Scrum Certification Test

About the Author

Dan Mezick is an Agile coach and trainer focused on Scrum. He’s a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009 and an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010. Dan’s company provides Scrum training and Agile coaching, counsel and guidance to executives, managers and teams. Learn more about Dan here.